Budding scientists compete at IPFW

March 20th, 2017

By Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette

It’s part of the science fair few get to see.

About a dozen judges – teachers, college professors and professional scientists and engineers – stood huddled around neatly displayed poster presentations of students’ experiments, talking.

Seriously talking.

They’re saying they’re impressed by one student’s dogged determination to get to the bottom of the research question she’d undertaken.

They like the chutzpah of another budding scientist’s ability to admit that what he had expected to find, based on his hypothesis, didn’t pan out.

They appreciated another student’s tackling of a ­real-world problem for developing countries, and boosted a student’s score for his investigation of how a product he envisioned could be marketed.

That was the scene early Saturday afternoon at ­IPFW’s Walb Student Union at the 62nd annual Northeast Indiana Regional Science and Engineering Fair.

Students in both the junior and senior divisions who placed in their schools’ science fairs competed at the regional fair, where top honors included advancing to the state competition, said Matthew Perkins Coppola, organizer.

That event, the 29th annual Hoosier Science and Engineering Fair, will take place April 1 at the Campus Center of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Top winners there will become part of the Indiana delegation to the 2017 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair from May 14 to 19 in Los Angeles.

Coppola said specifics of the deliberations of the judges are kept secret. The process also included judges’ spending time with entrants to quiz them individually about their projects.

Students from eight counties – Adams, Allen, Huntington, Lagrange, Miami, Noble, Wells and Whitley – competed in the fair, displaying diverse interests.

Among projects being considered Saturday afternoon in the senior division was one that found several types of exercise – running, lifting weights and bouncing on an exercise ball – didn’t improve participants’ ability to remember a list of words over the short term.

Another tried creating a battery using muddy water, and still another investigated whether several inert gases could affect the strength of the plastic used in three-dimensional printing.

This year’s fair took place in conjunction with IPFW’s Science and Society’s Research Madness event that showcases campus research, so students could see the kind of research being done at the next level, Coppola said.

Science fairs like these highlight the importance and value of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in an attempt to encourage students to pursue education and a career in those fields, he said.

“It’s our opportunity to encourage, recognize and celebrate their achievements as we cultivate a community” of future scientists and engineers, Coppola said.